Was it a great year for movies, or a somewhat lacklustre one?
Big-budget misfires abounded, while truly great films appeared few and far between.
With so many pointless remakes and misfiring sequels, it was a struggle to assemble a list of my five favourite films from 2019, but here they are, in no particular order. (Cinematic releases only.) (Sorry, The Irishman.)
This wrap-up of the first decade of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies had some odd moments that didn’t work, but its totally bonkers “time heist” and that enormous final battle surely provided thrills and spectacle by the boatload.
It was stirring to hear the words “Avengers Assemble” finally spoken on screen, and the number 3,000 has become the new standard for measuring affection.
And how many Marvelites didn’t feel a quickening of the pulse at the doomed Tony Stark echoing the words he spoke more than 10 years ago: “And I am Iron Man.”
And that heartwarming end to Captain America’s story arc – Goosebumps! Manly tears!
Read our review: 'Avengers: Endgame': The pinnacle of all superhero movies
A tour de force performance by Joaquin Phoenix and bravura direction by Todd Phillips elevated this very un-comic-book-like origin story of the Clown Prince of Crime to lofty heights.
The unpredictable turns, the principal character’s highly unreliable point of view, dangerous explorations of mental health issues and the disregard that society in general has for the afflicted – not at all what I expected, and such a challenging piece of filmmaking.
Read our review: Hypnotic ‘Joker’ dares us to feel empathy for the devil
Wow. Just wow. The folks who raved about Bong Joon-ho’s black comedy about class divisions urged me to go in knowing as little as possible about it.
Good advice, because this proved to be a roller-coaster ride of surprises and dark turns where the social satire and questionable characters are all the more chilling for their familiarity.
Bong’s skill at knocking the wind out of you with each turn only gets increasingly wicked as the film progresses.
Read our review: 'Parasite': Brilliant take on class difference
While this sequel did not gain as much traction at the box-office as its predecessor, it perfectly captured the essence of its main characters’ struggle to overcome the traumas and (literal) demons of their past – and reminded us that wresting back control of the narrative is the best path to casting out toxicity.
Read our review: 'It Chapter Two': 3-hour rollercoaster of fear, revulsion and horror
A whodunit mystery about the death of an eccentric bestselling author and his family’s mass falling out with one another as the delicate threads of their relationships unravel all at once. Proof that you can make a fascinating, gripping film with PG-13 content.
Not sure about Daniel Craig’s accent, but Ana de Armas was a delight as the beleaguered immigrant nurse at the centre of the storm.
Read our review: 'Knives Out': Sharp, pointed satire and hilarious take on classic whodunnits
Movies that came close but just missed getting on the list:
Toy Story 4 (a beautiful finish to Woody’s story but somewhat familiar in places), Ad Astra (a stunning space saga that fell just short of being as uplifting as it would have us believe), Glass (ambitious, but to me a mild betrayal of Unbreakable), Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (a trifle indulgent) and Us (too much explaining ruined a really terrific first hour and that chilling twist at the end).
Why isn’t John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum here? After all, it had some of the coolest action sequences ever put on film, with some shout-outs to Bruce Lee’s Game Of Death even. But I was a bit annoyed that the movie turned our hero into a bit of a gullible dope.
On the Hong Kong movie front, A Witness Out Of The Blue proved to be a surprisingly absorbing action thriller, while The Invincible Dragon has to be hands down the most excruciating film I sat through all year.
I went to watch Malaysian production Wira on a friend’s recommendation and thoroughly enjoyed it – that final fight scene with the great Yayan Ruhian, our very own Hairul Azreen and Fify Azmi alone is right up there with the best showdowns in action cinema.
May 2020 be as bone-crunching a year at the movies.